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The second game of the "World Oza" final turned out to be as fierce as the first one. Both players were continuously looking for the sharpest moves, because of this praiseworthy attitude it again happened that the opening was a kind of skipped and the game started directly from the middle game :-)
The atmosphere during the game in the press/VIP room had changed quite a bit from game one and it was obvious that this wasn't a day at the beach anymore but a clash between two top contenders who found themselves under close watch by the delegates of their countries and fans at home.
Another noteworthy point of the second clash was the absence at the Westin Nagoya Castle Hotel of Japanese top pro's. Hane Yasumasa had to be there because of his position as official but he was the only Japanese pro of any caliber present. During game one Ogata Masaki 9p formed a bridge between all the warring parties and he used his natural charm and go skills to single handedly create a perfect study/game-analyzing environment. The fact that this year too none of the finalists was from Japan gave Ogata as neutral third party more freedom of speech than the pro's from China and Korea.
As said, because of the "I will not let you get away with anything" attitude of both players right from the start interesting and not often seen things happened.


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Fig 1

After the game Lee was playing around with some stones and put dia 1 on the board, for a moment he seemed to like it better than the game but soon he cleared away the stones and probingly played directly at 7 instead of black1. This, however also did not seem much to his liking. Hane Naoki 9p mentioned that because of a black stone at the 6-3 point he would never play the attachment of black 7 in the game since that seems to force white to develop the upper part of the board, something he wanted to do anyway!

Black 13 is a probe, and not as outrageous as it looks like. The thing is, playing this move so early on in the game it is totally unclear whether it will come out nicely or not. In this game Chang Hao did not seem to be bothered by 13 much and in the end Lee himself admitted the move seemingly had not given him any advantage (compared to directly entering the upper left corner). White 30 sets up a fierce attack. Hane Naoki was asked by one of the about 120 people gathered to watch his commentary if white was trying to kill the black stones at the top. "Certainly not, stones like that are not something to go after. However, white will try to keep the pressure on as long as possible (as long as it takes for white to get a result he can feel satisfied with).

Instead of white 36 to play as shown in dia 2 was possible too according to Hane. "It's white's choice so Chang Hao obviously judged that dia 2 was not as good for white as the game". By the way, black at 12 is the correct order, playing this move directly at 14 will leave a shape which somewhere along the line might be attacked and find itself without eyes.

After the game Chang Hao commented that the moment white got to take the black stone when playing 44 he felt he was doing ok, not winning or something, just doing ok. Black 49 caused some consternation :-) Pro's of all countries present went simultaneously "What, is he serious?!" The only justification for black 49 would be to aim at attacking the whole chain of white stones. For your average amateur this is a totally normal way of looking at the game for the pro's, however, it felt like black was overdoing things. Perhaps black felt that he was slipping behind a little and had to catch up somehow.

Fig 2

Black 57 is a "oh so innocent" looking move but if you do not realize in time that black is aiming at the sequence shown in dia 3 you will find yourself behind before you know it. Also because of this ladder-threat Chang Hao was not happy with white 54. Chang regretted this move a lot. Right after the game he took this stone and moved it one space to the left a couple of times with a grim grin on his face suggesting that he had difficulty recalling why exactly he had played the move in the game (the drawback of the game move is that black 133 will sooner or later be an excellent cutting-points-creating move).

Chang Hao also was not happy afterwards with his move at 68. Lee Sedol suggested that either white blocks as shown in dia 4 or he plays elsewhere (tenuki). It took some time to get the translation through but when it was clear Chang agreed with Lee wholeheartedly.

The game had its swings, now black felt a little better than white felt ahead. No clear advantages were obtained by either player but the whole game seems to have been working up to black 77. This is as crucial a point in a game as they come. Some might feel that black is doing fine (I did) but according to the pro's it is next to impossible to say how and what. (remember, I am writing this 2 hours after the game finished, some deep analyzing might prove this or that but even that seems doubtful owing to the complexity of the situation).

To go back a little, white 72 shows that he is confident in the strength of the white stones at the upper left side. Looking at the situation from a different perspective, suppose white had played after white connects at 1 in dia 5 the exchange black2-white 3 is very bad for white provided black can start something with the help of black 2 at the left side. If not white 3 is fine. To simplify things even further, when playing game move 72 white made a statement "there is nothing at the left side, go away, leave me alone". Next it is black who makes a statement with 73 and 77 "O yeah? Well I'm telling you, you better start patching up things or else..."
To yet put it in still other words, up to this point the game was like two gun fighters circling each other end trying to get an advantage, trying to make the other face the sun. Finally the circling is done with and somebody has to draw first.

White 78 or thereabouts is the only move. Chang Hao "can't defend at the left, white does not have enough territory yet". Black 79 is probably the move which cost Lee the game. The pro's gathered did some deep analyzing here and to cut a long story short: after black 79 if he has no severe follow-up sequence to make it hard on white he shouldn't have played there in the first place.
Lee Sedol himself very much seemed to have felt that way already (he came to that conclusion about 10 times as fast as the other pro's). He didn't speak so much during the after-game analyzing but now through the interpreted he said "and what do you do if I play here?

Dia 6 is the move Lee meant, the quiet diagonal move at 1. Supposedly dia 6 shows the best move for black, Lee very much seemed to have thought about it during the game but perhaps he felt it just wasn't enough. Chang Hao answered Lee's question "same story, white cannot answer at the left even though it might prove dangerous to ignore black (1) white just doesn't have enough territory to play passively yet".
Hearing this Lee slumped in his chair, Chang's answer makes it clear that compared to the game move black 1 would have been better, it leaves black less thin and gives him ample opportunity to start a harsh offensive towards the upper left white guys.

At this point of the game just before the play was interrupted for lunch the general consensus was that Lee Sedol would win and could take home the Toyota-Denso cup and a nice car, too. Black 89, however, just wasn't the right move here but it was not possible for the pro's to find out what black should have done exactly. So here, finally, the reason is found why black 79 perhaps was not the proper move. The pro's very much seemed to expect that no matter how much analyzing they would do they won't find a nice black move because there isn't one to be found :-)
To go through everything which appeared on the board while coming to this conclusion would take much more time and energy I have at the moment (besides, I'll probably get something wrong, there were just so many stones appearing on the board as magic and disappearing even faster for some 10 minutes). It seems that black could have attacked the white left group by setting up a ko but that there were no sufficient threats yet. Another thing which I seem to remember is the move shown in dia 7. This seems to make a black play at 2 or 3 of the same value. However, besides the pro's analyzing in the press room, Lee himself put this on the board in the after game pow-wow and showed a face for which no interpreter was needed. He didn't like it if white would just let one stone be captured as in the diagram and black would eventually find himself forced to connect at the left of three. Even than, however, the black group is still not alive.

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5 Although one of the pro's of the Korean delegation every now and then was putting a black stone at 206 and said something which I unfortunately could not understand there is nothing left for black to aim at and stage an upset. For a moment it might look as if black could start a desperate kind of ko when he (somewhere after white 136) wedges at 206. However, if black separates there, white simply play at the point above 205, forcing black to connect (at 205). White can then atari on the 2nd line and easily make two eyes on the top side. There is no ko fighting. Towards the end of the game the spirits of the Korean team sunk a notch or two. Although I'm looking forward to the next and final game it seems safe to assume that the almost palatable tension in the pressroom will even increase more. It is hard to imagine what kind of pressure the finalists are facing themselves!

Copyright © Pieter Mioch January 2005

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